Good design gets better

Good design is about more than just finding the right colors to paint the walls or selecting the right furnishings to put in a room. Good design is about blending all the elements in a room so that it looks good and functions even better.

At times, it can be difficult to put a finger on exactly what it is about a design that makes it good. Sometimes, good design just speaks to you.

No one knows this better than the folks at Architectural Digest, a monthly magazine that has been showcasing the best in design since the 1920s.

The magazine's editors find good design around the world and are always open to suggestions of designs that can be featured, said Margaret Dunne, executive editor of the magazine. So, they decided to ask readers to show them what was being done in homes throughout the United States.

"Our editor-in-chief had been hearing one too many times 'Oh, I could never be in Architectural Digest. I don't know anybody. I have to pay to be in there or you have to be a famous designer.' She had written a letter one month that said 'We'd love to see your work.' There was only one submission," Dunne said.

After that, she asked the staff to consider putting out an invitation to professionals and nonprofessionals to share their work.

As a result, Architectural Digest is in the process of holding open auditions to find the best new residential designs and interior decorators.

Hundreds of people in New York and Florida brought in photos of their work to share with the editors.

Now, West Coast residents will get a chance to share their creations during a two-day audition Wednesday and Thursday at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. It will be the third of four scheduled open auditions; the final event will take place in Houston May 6.

"I'm delighted to give anyone with a passion and a talent for design a forum to meet AD editors face to face and show them their work," said Paige Rense, editor-in-chief. "We are always searching for new and innovative talent in design and architecture."

Fran Jennings of Las Vegas will be among those auditioning next week.

"Being in the magazine would be like a dream," said Jennings, a long-time reader.

Jennings, who is not a professional interior decorator, said she loves design and welcomes the chance for the magazine's editors to validate her work.

She decorated her entire 3,500-square-foot, two-story home and will bring photos of her family room and backyard to the audition. She and her husband, Ross Brough, have been working on their home since they had it built in 2000. The interior is done in shades of green and a Ralph Lauren red, which has some orange undertones, and features a tropical theme to coordinate with their large backyard.

"The backyard was the biggest project," she said of the 11,300-square-foot area.

The yard features a swimming pool accented by large boulders and three 40-foot palm trees including one that arches over the water.

"The backyard is our favorite place," she said. "I have a full kitchen out there; I have better appliances out there than in my kitchen."

Once the pool and boulders were in place, Jennings said she and her husband would sit in chairs and visualize each quadrant before tackling the landscape. "We really had no help whatsoever."

She said friends have told her that their home should be featured in Architectural Digest. "Now I have a chance to do it."

The audition is the first design contest that Jennings has entered.

Interest from people like Jennings is exactly what the magazine was looking for, Dunne said.

Even though they all won't be selected to be featured in the magazine, everyone who came to the first two auditions was excited to share their work. They also were happy to learn that it was OK to submit suggestions, Dunne said.

The only submission limitations are that the project be current, the home is not for sale and it hasn't been featured in another publication.

A panel of five editors will select the best designs submitted at the auditions. From there, a group of semifinalists will be chosen and their work will be posted on the magazine's Web site so the public can vote for their favorites.

"We've heard from people who have said that being featured in Architectural Digest has changed their lives," Dunne said.

For Jennings, the change won't be quite as dramatic. Even if she is selected, she said she doesn't plan to change careers. She just wants a little recognition for all of her hard work.